Northern elders, Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere knock Masari’s call for self-defence

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Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari’s call for residents of the state to be allowed to bear arms for self-defence has attracted criticism from stakeholders across the country, including the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF).

Speaking during an interaction with journalists at the Muhammadu Buhari House in Katsina on Tuesday, the governor noted that security officials alone cannot tackle insecurity in the state, making it imperative that residents made alternative security arrangements.

“It’s Islamically allowed for one to defend himself against attack. One must rise to defend himself, his family and assets. If you die while trying to defend yourself, you’ll be considered a martyr. It’s surprising how a bandit would own a gun while a good man trying to defend himself and his family doesn’t have one,” Masari said.

He emphasised the state government’s readiness to assist residents willing to procure arms.

He further explained that the police would register all arms procured by citizens to ensure they are put to the right use.

However, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Wednesday lampooned the idea.

NEF Spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said that the governor’s idea indicated a growing vacuum in leadership in the country.

“If indeed the governor had said this as reported, we should expect him to lead people who elected him with advice on how and where to acquire, train and use weapons that are currently banned to the public by the law.

“This crisis of insecurity is taking many casualties, one of the most important being village heads.

“There is a growing vacuum in thinking and leadership that makes for stories such as this to sound almost credible.

“Is it really the case that President Buhari cannot sit with governors and managers of our national security and discuss all the roots, dimensions and solutions to these problems without the temptation to prescribe do-it-yourself solutions?” Baba-Ahmed said.

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Also reacting, the  Middle Belt Forum said that the governor’s suggestion was tantamount to admitting that the nation’s leadership has failed.

National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu said, “That statement is an indication that government and governance have failed. It is an indication that we are living in a failed state.

“Any arming of citizens to defend themselves has to be through an organised structure. Simply put, we should have state police, local government police, county police and have true federalism, just as it is in America, whose constitution and governance we are copying.

“Governor Masari’s statement is an indication of frustration. The governor forgot about anything and dwelt on one aspect only, that is the right to self-defence.

“That he has made that statement is a wake-up call for all Nigerians that a governor has now openly come out to say that the federal system that controls the police, the army and all the paramilitary forces has failed the people and therefore, we are living in a failed state.

“It is high time the legislature of this country passed a law to allow for state police, local government police and decentralization of this federal control which has failed.

“As far as I am concerned, that is what it portends. It calls for confusion but all the same, it sends a message and that message should be a wake-up call for all of us.”

Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere said that allowing citizens to bear firearms would amount to “democratising crime”.

National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Jare Ajayi, said,

“It is unfortunate because it further exposes the paucity of deep thinking at the level of governance in Nigeria.

“Saying that citizens would be given arms to defend themselves as a way of addressing the insecurity problem in Katsina is almost like saying that you are to ‘democratise’ crime because crime could not be controlled.

“What sort of weapons would the government give the citizens that would be as sophisticated as the ones in the hands of terrorists?

“And, what is the guarantee that those saddled with the responsibility of procuring the arms would not divert parts of it to the terrorists? The same governor earlier negotiated with the terrorists the other time, including paying them ransom — as reported.

“That did not stop terrorism from festering. What gave him and his advisers the confidence this new idea will work the magic? In any case, where will the money for the arms come from? From a budget that has no provision for such?

“Governor Masari and those who may be thinking like him should perish the thought. They can eat the humble pie, admit that they can no longer find solutions to societal problems. They can then seek for genuine help or resign.

“Nigeria and Nigerians deserve far better than what we are getting from our governments. Too bad.”

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